Under the Sea: Marine Life Artists Have Discovered the Beauty of the Undersea World of Marine Animals and Passed Their Devotion and Activism onto Collectors Worldwide. (Marine Art)

By Tarateta, Maja | Art Business News, August 2002 | Go to article overview

Under the Sea: Marine Life Artists Have Discovered the Beauty of the Undersea World of Marine Animals and Passed Their Devotion and Activism onto Collectors Worldwide. (Marine Art)


Tarateta, Maja, Art Business News


Approximately 70 percent of the earth is covered by water, but it remains a world that few people have experienced. Indeed, the sea is a mystical place where whales make their home; where dolphins, manatees and incalculable species of fish swim; and where so much life lives in danger of extinction. It is this threat that sparked an interest a little more than two decades ago in the art of life under the sea. Although a few artists, like Larry Foster and Richard Ellis, were painting underwater scenes before that time, it was not until the early 1980s, when the environmental movement began to really vocalize its concerns to the world, that the popularity for marine life art began to grow. And as concerns for the life of the sea continue to find support, so does the art that depicts it.

For most of the artists who paint in this genre, the story of their beginnings are similar: an experience whale-watching, snorkeling or scuba diving sparked a desire to depict the world they witnessed underwater in a painting. In the early days of the movement, much of the artwork was more romantic or fantasy oriented. Today, authenticity wins out as the predominant style. "My images are based on reality," said marine life artist Paul Brent, based in Panama City, Fla. "But I don't sit with the fish while I paint, so it becomes an interpretation, although you know what type of fish it is. But you will also notice nearly imperceptible changes to the eyes and mouth of the fish I paint that make them look more human."

Years ago, said artist David Miller of Maui Art of Sacramento, Calif., underwater fantasy scenes with dolphins were all the rage. "Now, the focus is more on realism," he said. "Tranquil beach scenes are very strong, or a beach with dolphins seen at the surface is popular. While the work may be photorealistic, my goal is to make the scenes romantic, make the dolphins look like a family."

Artist Wyland, based in Laguna Beach, Calif., said, "My work has become more realistic, based on the experiences I have had on expeditions. But it is still very soulful," he said. "I try to paint the whales and the great spirit they possess. It's pure art that reflects the beauty and power of nature."

Subjects as Diverse As the Sea Itself

While marine life art can really depict any life forms that exist in the world of water, including some species of birds, frogs and turtles, as well as coral reef, star fish and sea horses, certain subjects have revealed themselves to be more popular among collectors. Said artist Apollo, based in the Big Island of Hawaii and in Lake Tahoe, Calif., collectors tend to favor "dolphins because of their playful spirit, whales because of their sheer size and intelligence and reef fish and coral because of their beautiful color diversity."

At Artist of the Sea, a Web site launched late last year by Joyce Yaffe, former director of the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in Dania Beach, Fla., the focus is on life-like representations of great game fish, especially marlin and sailfish. Fantasy fish, she said, have no place on her site. Rather, she said, collectors come to ArtistoftheSea.com to purchase marine art that "captures the thrill and excitement of big game fish or the quieter, stealth catch in the shallows. The vibrant colors of the sea and sky and the exquisite detail of the fish are realistic and representative of nature's stunning beauty." The artists she represents, she said, are all fish and wildlife enthusiasts.

Unlimited Sea Lovers, Unlimited Collectors

Gallery owners who show marine life art in their shops are often enthusiasts, too. It was actually a love of humpback whales that spurred Julie Rogers to open a gallery, called Endangered Arts, on Hilton Head Island, S.C., with her husband nine years ago. The gallery's name not only represents the fact that the couple sells only s/n editions but also that they feature the work of Wyland among the 27 artists they showcase. …

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